2018 FIFA World Cup Team Preview: Analysing England’s Chances at the Tournament

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England have not missed a World Cup since 1994 but their record since then has been famously underwhelming.

The much-maligned ‘golden generation’ achieved just two quarter finals, while the post-Sven years have seen diminishing returns as the FA scrabble time and again for a new man to take the founders of the game back to the forefront of it.

Despite the supposedly low expectations for this year, insidious optimism is gradually creeping back into England fans’ minds as Russia approaches. In-form stars, decent friendly results and a kind draw have all boosted confidence. However, few no better than England fans: pride comes before an early exit…

How They Qualified

England’s road to Russia was (looking at the stats on the screen) a straightforward one. However, the fact that they were one of only four unbeaten sides in European qualifying and the team with the fewest goals conceeded (three) glosses over some issues.

Sam Allardyce kicked off the Three Lions’ campaign back in 2016, before being caught with a napkin over his face and a pint of wine on the table saying things he shouldn’t have said, and was ousted faster than you can say ‘Wing’s restaurant in favour of the FA’s head boy Gareth Southgate’.

Despite few scares in a routine qualification process, England were not scintillating against Slovenia, Slovakia, Scotland, Lithuania or even Malta and questions linger over whether Southgate (or anyone for that matter) knows the best starting lineup.

Group Stage

Belgium aside, England have a relatively kind run at the group fixtures and won’t have to face Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils until the third game when (touch all the wood) they should already be through to the next round.

The Three Lions kick off against Tunisia, who head a north African revival at this World Cup, on June 18 in Volgograd before facing first-time qualifiers Panama on June 24 (Nizhny Novograd) and finally Belgium on June 28 (Kaliningrad). 

Two wins is the goal. 

Route to the Final

While most England fans will tell you they have no expectations for the current crop, another group stage exit would go down about as well as a Raheem Sterling tattoo at the offices of The Sun. 

The last 16 might have been considered par before the groups were drawn, but that too is looking surprisingly doable as the lingering echoes of a certain Scandinavian clap are drowned out amid a chorus of ‘Football’s Coming Home’.

Presuming the footballing might of Tunisia and Panama is bested, England will likely face one of Poland or Colombia…or Senegal…or maybe Japan(?) in the first knockout. 

None of the above would be a walkover, especially considering England have won just two World Cup knockout fixtures since 1990. However, it is a nicer route to the last eight than in previous tournaments.

After the last 16, England would almost certainly face the Germans in quarters. Spain or quite possibly Argentina could await after that and…well, this level of fantasy is not doing anyone any favours, is it?


Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley)

Defenders: Kyle Walker (Man City), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), John Stones (Man City), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Phil Jones (Man Utd), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Ashley Young (Man Utd)

Midfielders: Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace), Jesse Lingard (Man Utd), Fabian Delph (Man City), Deli Alli (Tottenham), Raheem Sterling (Man City)

Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal), Marcus Rashford (Man Utd)

Predicted Lineup

3-5-1-1: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Cahill, Trippier, Henderson, Dier, Alli, Rose, Sterling, Kane


It’s been 12 years since England last won a knockout game at any tournament, so just aiming for that and the idea of a penalty shootout exit to Germany seems almost dreamy.

The navigable group and last 16 tie means the final eight are a distinct possibility and should be what Southgate and his men are aiming for, without getting overly cocky.

On paper, Harry Kane has a reasonable shot at the Golden Boot too, but it’s never that easy and gritty wins over Tunisia and Panama will be welcomed with sweet relief before the showdown for first place with Belgium. 

Prediction: Quarter-finals.

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